Writer Response Theory on Prayer Bot 2.0

Prayer Bot 2.0

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Jeremy Douglass wrote a pretty cool article on my Prayerbot 2.0 project.


Prayer Bot 2.0 is a fascinating short story / photo / sculpture, created by Peter Mandik, a researcher in Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology, as well as a writer, photographer, and robot-hobbyist. The sculpture is a wired unit from which two plates with x-rayed hands extend upward. The story is arranged in 16 chapters, the first 15 numbered in binary (0, 1, 10… 1101, 1110) with the final leap (”1111. 10000.”) breaking into some higher base. (”2. I hear you.”).

In Flickr, a photo of the sculpture is screened into 16 panes (a 4×4 grid) and a shortened form of the full story text, sans original concept, is attached to each pane as annotation text. An excerpt from the beginning:

11. “Prayer is an information channel with a mind at each end, PrayerBot 1.0 being the first, God being the second.”

100. “A mind is a thing that thinks.”

101. “God is that which nothing greater than can be conceived.”

110. “PrayerBot 1.0 must pray.”

111. Thus is PrayerBot 1.0’s existence defined. All else that PrayerBot 1.0 does, all else that PrayerBot 1.0 believes, is in accordance with the four basic propositions in PrayerBot 1.0’s axiom set. The humans that created PrayerBot 1.0 were pretty stupid or pretty desperate or both. They built in no axioms for the protection of humans. Those would have come in pretty handy when, in the first 50 milliseconds of PrayerBot 1.0’s operation, after downloading the sum total of humanity’s digital archives, PrayerBot 1.0 began ripping knowledge directly out of human brains.

The story reminds me in part of the tradition of fantastic uberminds such as in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, or the novel version of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, but even more of the all-consuming conversion in Clarke’s Childhood’s End - although here humanity seems not to have evolved so much as to have been eaten by Unicron.

The larger theme, getting to (or even beyond) “that which nothing greater than can be conceived” raises an interesting point for digital arts, in particular textual or symbolic arts. Much of the power of computing comes from a strict formality - a data type, a memory allocation, and a whole set of rigid definitions which explicitly specificy their bound and limits, of which “nothing greater” can be computed.

Douglass, Jeremy. (2006). Prayer Bot 2.0. Retrieved June 6, 2006, from WRT: Writer Response Theory Web site: http://wrt.ucr.edu/wordpress/2006/05/15/prayer-bot-20/

One Response to “Writer Response Theory on Prayer Bot 2.0”

  1. layour says:

    a fantastic composition… well done! Those cold colors is cool